Janis Joplin, Opinions on Kanye West & Neil Young and Crazy Horse


Janis Joplin was known for her iconic singing voice, gregarious image and refusal to conform. But behind her chill, blues mama persona was an intellectual, intentional artist. Jim and Greg discuss the life and career of Janis Joplin with author and biographer Holly George-Warren. They talk about the legacy of Joplin's music and identity almost 50 years after her tragic death. Jim and Greg will also review new albums from Kanye West and Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

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Jesus Is King Kanye West


Kanye West is back with the highly anticipated album, Jesus Is King. According to Greg, lately Kanye has been making more headlines for his proclamations than his music. This album has been the subject of scrutiny, however, because it marks a stylistic turn. A gospel and hip hop hybrid, Greg notes that Kanye is "very earnest in his use of the gospel signifiers on this record, the gospel choirs, the churchy keyboard chords." Even contemporary gospel legend Fred Hammond features on the track "Hands On." Jim agrees that the gospel production and even messaging in this album seems to be coming from an authentic place. They both are quick to acknowledge that Kanye has a long history of folding gospel sensibilities into his music (particularly on tracks like "Jesus Walks" and "Ultralight Beam.") Though both Jim and Greg acknowledge that "only Kanye" could come up with the idea to merge The Clipse and Kenny G on the same track "(Use This Gospel)," Greg laments that the album seems unfinished and asks "where is the work of art like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?" Jim suggests that Kanye, like John Lennon in his early Plastic Ono Band period, "not thinking about Beatles perfection… letting it blurt." Ultimately, Jim thinks that this album is the best Kanye has given us in some time, while Greg thinks that though Kanye is on the "Road To Damascus," (an allusion to the prophet Paul's religious conversion on the Road To Damascus) "… he hasn't gotten there yet."

Colorado Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Neil Young with Crazy Horse

On Neil Young's 39th studio album and first with Crazy Horse in seven years, there's a directness to the lyrics that Greg calls nearly unprecedented in his career. The lyrical urgency is spurred on by Young's concern over climate change. Jim and Greg agree that the earnestness produces a few cringe-worthy lyrics, but also appreciate the lack of self-consciousness he brings to the songs.

Musically Young and his long-time rock collaborators in Crazy Horse pick up right where they left off, chiseling away at the one epic rock they always have, as Greg puts it. He says he lives for the guitar solos on tracks like "She Showed Me Love." Jim also appreciates the quieter acoustic songs on the album, citing "I Do" as a beautiful love song. He suggests that a few songs from Colorado could be paired with a handful from each of Young's recent albums to make a nice companion to his Decade compilation.

Holly George-Warren on Janis Joplin


It's been over 50 years since Janis Joplin first shocked the music world with her soulful voice, energetic stage presence and unabashed sense of self. And unfortunately, a lot about Janis's life has been sensationalized because of her seemingly meteoric rise to fame and subsequent tragic death at age 27 from a drug overdose. But behind that carefree, blues mama persona was an intellectual, hard working and intentional artist.

This week, Jim and Greg talk to music journalist Holly George-Warren, author of the new book Janis: Her Life and Music. It's a fascinating read and is full of letters, documents and interviews that help get to the core of who Janis Joplin really was. They talk about the legacy of Joplin's music and identity almost 50 years after her tragic death.

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